IMDb > Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)

Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) More at IMDbPro »

Los Angeles Plays Itself -- A film by Thom Andersen.

A Cinema Guild Release.


User Rating:
8.0/10   1,453 votes »
Your Rating:
Saving vote...
Deleting vote...
/10   (delete | history)
Sorry, there was a problem
Popularity: ?
Down 1% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Thom Andersen (text)
View company contact information for Los Angeles Plays Itself on IMDbPro.
A documentary on how Los Angeles has been used and depicted in the movies. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
4 wins See more »
User Reviews:
A most personal view of Los Angeles viewed through the Movies See more (37 total) »


Encke King ... Narrator (voice)

Directed by
Thom Andersen 
Writing credits
Thom Andersen (text)

Produced by
Thom Andersen .... producer
Cinematography by
Deborah Stratman 
Film Editing by
Seung-Hyun Yoo 
Sound Department
Thor Moser .... sound
Craig Smith .... sound
Editorial Department
Peter Bo Rappmund .... addtional editing
Other crew
Scott Crary .... distribution assistant

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
169 min

Did You Know?

Factual errors: The narration describes architect John Lautner's famous Chemosphere house as "a hexagon of wood, steel, and glass." The Chemosphere is octagonal.See more »
Movie Connections:
Features Annie Hall (1977)See more »


This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
7 out of 9 people found the following review useful.
A most personal view of Los Angeles viewed through the Movies, 11 May 2005
Author: Joe Stemme from United States

In much the same spirit as Martin Scorsese's "Mio viaggio in Italia" (1999), Thom Andersen's "visual lecture" on his native Los Angeles is a very personal journey. Because of rights issues involved in procuring clips from dozens and dozens of films, this project is unlikely to ever be seen outside of Museums, Cinemateques, and 'academic' settings, so you will have to actively seek it out if you want to see it. It is worth doing so - with reservations.

Because it is such a personal odyssey, nobody is likely to agree with all of it, and that would suit Director Andersen just fine. I guess I could be categorized as a "tourist who stayed" in the vernacular of Andersen's thesis. I grew up in Boston, and moved to Los Angeles in my early 20's. Therefore, MY LOS ANGELES is different from Andersen's. I don't get my back up when the city is referred to as "L.A.", but Andersen pointedly does. He finds it a derogatory and dismissive term that is used as a weapon by outsiders and tourists. As local film critic Andy Klein points out, Americans don't seem to have the same issue when it comes to the abbreviation "U.S.A.", so why is "L.A." so offensive? And, though many locals DO object, "Frisco", "D.C.","NYC", "SLC"and other similar abbreviations are becoming more and more common in our less literal society.

Some of the clips which Andersen employs last only a few seconds - acting as veritable Still Photos of certain views of the city (representing a variety of eras as well). Andersen is laudably conscientious in identifying ALL the clips used (sometimes this is a distraction; especially in those briefest of shots). Oddly, the brevity of those shots actually spurred me to wish the film were EVEN LONGER (the most common criticism of the film is that it is too long as is). Still, by the end, a remarkable portrait of a city does emerge. But, being the home of "Hollywood" (a term which also rankles Andersen - especially when it is used interchangeably with the main city itself), Los Angeles doesn't seem to exist in the world's eyes as separate from the Film Industry.

The biggest problem with the film is the narration (not Andersen's voice as others have often mentioned). Andersen is given to make sharp declarative sentences, that are too often contradicted not only by reality - but by the clips in his own movie! For instance, he makes a point about the haze over the city and declares that films ALWAYS have a gauzy look when showing Los Angeles - then provides clips which show the sharp sunny vistas (think BAYWATCH) that attract hordes of visitors and tourists. More problematically, Andersen is a 'neighborhood' guy who not only derides Hollywood, but seemingly anywhere west of Vine. For someone who is declaring love for his native city, it is odd that he dismisses vast swatches of it! Curious too, is that Andersen knowingly adopts the view of "outsiders" to the city (and the film industry) as he levies specious arguments to why "Hollywood" is so phony in its depiction of the city. Andersen certainly is better informed, but feigns ignorance to make his point.

The final portion of the movie brings Andersen's agitprop view into focus. To Andersen, racism is the dark underside of Los Angeles. As a so-called 'liberal Westsider', I have sympathy with much of what Andersen espouses (especially his parsing of the term "Nobody walks in L.A."), but it changes the focus of the film (not to mention the explosive and divisive use of a term like "genocide" to define public policy).

Again, one wishes the film were longer in order to explore some of these issues touched upon. Also, Andersen should have done another pass in the editing room. Not in terms of length, but in terms of some of the obvious contradictions in his narration vs. reality/movie clips. And , a cheap shot at George Kennedy (obviously an attempt to inject humor in the dry commentary) is not worthy of such a high-minded project (curiously, Andersen misses an opportunity to needle Kennedy again in a later BLUE KNIGHT clip). On a technical note, I must say I was disappointed that it is a Video Production (as many of the most extraordinary pieces of Cinematography are marred by a fuzzy video-dupe look) -- all the while understanding the financial and logistical reasons it is so.

Was the above review useful to you?
See more (37 total) »

Message Boards

Discuss this movie with other users on IMDb message board for Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)
Recent Posts (updated daily)User
What I don't get fullstopfilms-597-610248
It's up on Netflix streaming! JoshuaDysart
'Los Angeles' vs. 'L.A.' fiestasandsiestas
Will this spoil many films? number11baller
Similar documentaries about other cities? liberius
Absolute worst choice of narrator themagichat
See more »


If you enjoyed this title, our database also recommends:
- - - - -
Cinemania Sex and Buttered Popcorn Chris & Don. A Love Story Grass The Kid Stays in the Picture
IMDb User Rating:
IMDb User Rating:
IMDb User Rating:
IMDb User Rating:
IMDb User Rating:
Show more recommendations

Related Links

Full cast and crew Company credits External reviews
News articles IMDb Documentary section IMDb USA section

You may report errors and omissions on this page to the IMDb database managers. They will be examined and if approved will be included in a future update. Clicking the 'Edit page' button will take you through a step-by-step process.